Google's aptly-named Nexus 7 tablet made a splash when it debuted last year, at $199 and with a screen 7 inches across. Apple soon released its own iPad Mini to join the increasingly crowded world of miniature tablets, which -- at about half the size of a regular iPad -- are so small as to be pocketable.
Other manufacturers, however, aren't taking the "smaller is better" route. Microsoft's Surface tablet debuted with a 10.6-inch screen, almost an inch across more than the iPad. And now at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, at least two companies were showing off "tablets" the size of an HDTV.
That's the actual name of Lenovo's new product, which Lenovo is calling an "interpersonal PC" (yes, that is an interpersonal Personal Computer, in case you were wondering). It's a Windows 8 tablet, with a screen 27 inches across. It can apparently serve as an iMac-style, all-in-one desktop just fine, but Lenovo wants people to use it flat on their tables, like in a promo video which evokes the original Microsoft Surface.
A $10,000 bathtub
That's basically what the first Surface amounted to -- the Microsoft prototype of years ago, which never saw widespread use. It was a super-expensive, bathtub-sized table, with a Windows Vista PC inside and a camera array which optically scanned its top surface. It wasn't a true touchscreen, in other words, so much as an expensive hack that was mostly just good for demos and reminding people of the desks in "Tron."
Lenovo's "Table PC" is smaller than that Surface, but will also be a lot cheaper when it comes out "beginning in early summer," at $1,699. And like in those giddy tech demos, it's designed for multiple people to use it at once; for things like sorting through vacation photos, or even playing animated digital board games, using physical accessories like special dice. (Lenovo calls this sort of hybrid activity "phygital," a name which probably won't catch on.)
What about the games and apps?
Thanks to Microsoft's push for developers to make tablet apps, the Windows Market is starting to fill with touch titles. Lenovo is mostly pushing its own shop, however, run in partnership with Intel, which has "5,000+ multi-user entertainment apps." It's not clear how many of those are actually designed for the Horizon Table PC, but it comes with a selection of entertainment and children's titles, and with the built-in BlueStacks player it should be able to run certain Android apps as well.
Is 27 inches a little too big?
The Asus Transformer AiO, also shown off at CES, is based on a similar concept. It's an 18.4-inch all-in-one Windows 8 PC, where the screen can detach and become a huge (but not as huge) tablet. Most of the hardware is in the base station, but it can connect to it wirelessly inside the home, Wii U style. It also converts to an Android tablet, for use separate from the base station.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.